FAA workers' furlough back pay will have to wait for a separate bill

The House passed a bill to avert another shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration Tuesday, but it did not include provisions to provide back pay to FAA workers who were furloughed for nearly two weeks this summer.

The idea of paying workers back for the 13 days they missed when an impasse over FAA funding in Congress forced the agency to partially shut down had been included in an early draft of legislation to extend the agency's funding beyond its Friday deadline.

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But when the funding was combined with a separate extension of the federal highway appropriations bill, which was set to expire on Sept. 30, the back pay provisions were dropped.

The sponsor of a standalone bill to pay the workers, the "Furloughed FAA Employees Compensation Act,” said it was the Senate that wanted the back pay to not be included in the bill. 

"While I understand the Senate’s insistence for a straight-forward FAA extension, these workers were furloughed due to no fault of their own," Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said in a statement. "They and their families experienced financial hardship due to Congress’ inability to act. I continue to work with Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] and House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman [John] Mica [R-Fla.] to make this situation right and ensure back pay legislation is considered by the House."

About 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed during the shutdown.

LoBiondo, who is a member of the House Aviation subcommittee, said he plans to push forward with his standalone bill. 

The president of the FAA Managers Association, David Conley, said he had hoped to see the back pay included in the bill to extend the agency's funding.

But "we have another vehicle in place," he added in an interview with The Hill on Tuesday, referring to LoBiondo's bill.

Conley is in Washington this week urging lawmakers to move on the FAA back pay issue.

He said the back pay for FAA workers might have been a casualty of the desire in Congress to avoid another big fight over the agency’s funding.

“I think there may have been some energy toward a cleaner bill that has a better chance of passing,” he said.

"The furloughs were bad for everybody involved, including Congress," he concluded. 

During the 13-day shutdown, which was projected to have cost the federal government $30 million per day in lost airline sales ticket taxes, the FAA Managers Association had established a relief fund for furloughed workers. 

When Congress passed a deal to end the shutdown in August, the association told federal employees the donations were still needed because September was the earliest Congress could address the issue of back pay. 

A spokesman for House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said he also supports providing back pay to the workers.